Novak Djokovic put on a masterclass in power and precision to overwhelm Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final and clinch his 18th grand slam title.
The match had all the hallmarks of a classic, in particular after a stunning opening set from both men, but the Serb world No. 1 soon put his foot down and raced to a 7-5 6-2 6-2 win in less than two hours.
Victory secures a record-extending ninth Australian Open title for Djokovic, who is now just two grand slams behind the all-time record of 20 jointly held by Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
Based on today’s performance, there will be very few betting against him to one day equal – or perhaps even surpass – that marker.
While the match itself perhaps ended as somewhat anticlimactic, the post-match interviews were anything but and showed the deep respect and admiration these two players have for each other.
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“Just to tell you a small story guys,” Medvedev said. “I first practiced with Novak when I was 500 in the world or 600 in the world in Monaco and he was already world No. 1, had just won Wimbledon. I thought: ‘Okay, he’s not going to speak to me’ or something because the guy was a god for me.
“I came there and because I was shy I didn’t speak, so he was asking me questions, talking to me like a friend. I was really surprised and it never changed since I was 600 in the world or four in the world. You’re a great sport and great person, so congrats.”
Djokovic replied: “I would like to return the nice words to Daniil. First of all, class act. You’re a great guy, great person … We used to spend more time together, we used to practice more in Monaco – you’re not calling me anymore the last few years! But it’s nice to see that you’re thinking good things about me, thank you so much.
“I really like Daniil as a person off the court. He’s great, always very friendly, very outgoing but on the court he’s definitely one of the toughest players that I ever faced in my life. It’s a matter of time when you’re going to hold a grand slam that’s for sure … but if you don’t mind waiting a few more years.”
No changing of the guard
This was a fascinating matchup between intergenerational talents, with 33-year-old Djokovic representing tennis’ all-conquering old guard and 25-year-old Medvedev the up-and-coming stars that hope to one day dethrone the Serb and his peers.
Based on Sunday’s final, that day still looks some way off.
Coming into the match, Medvedev had reason to be confident. The world No. 4 was on a 20-game winning streak and is only the sixth active player to achieve the feat, joining Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro.
But Djokovic looked imperious from the get-go, breaking Medvedev in his opening service game and twice holding his own with ease to race into a 3-0 lead. However, playing in only his second grand slam final compared to Djokovic’s 28th, Medvedev’s early nerves soon dissipated and he quickly settled into his rhythm.
The turning point in the early stages came as the pair exchanged a stunning 28-shot rally, with Djokovic dumping his final shot into the bottom of the net to gift the Russian break point. Medvedev duly capitalized with some stunning defensive play to force Djokovic into another error and the first set was soon level.
Just minutes earlier, it felt as though the Serb would race away with the opening set, but suddenly the momentum was with Medvedev.
The pair went toe to toe until Medvedev was serving to stay in the set at 5-6. As he so often does at crucial moments, Djokovic stepped up a gear, finding extra length and power on his returns to break his opponent’s serve and close out a hard-fought opening set.
This was the eighth meeting between these two big hitters – with Djokovic edging the head-to-head 4-3 – and it had all the makings of being their greatest match to date.
However, after Medvedev appeared to recover well from that early disappointment by breaking Djokovic in the opening game of the second set, he soon crumbled and in the blink of an eye was two sets down.
There seemed to be very little the world No. 4 could do to prevent the onslaught and Medvedev’s racquet bore the brunt of his frustration as he crushed it into the floor of the Rod Laver arena.
While Medvedev unquestionably boasts the talent to compete with Djokovic – indeed, a stunning drop shot in the third set brought applause even from his opponent – the experience and mental resilience needed at moments of adversity in grand slam finals still seems to be lacking.
To Medvedev’s credit, he was eager to go down with a flourish and hit some stunning ground strokes as Djokovic tried to close out the match.
However, the world No. 1 proved that he was still a level above Sunday’s opponent and shut down any late hope Medvedev might have been gaining with a flurry of stunning shots.